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Whale stranded on Oregon coast euthanized after rescue efforts fail

A coalition of rescuers tried to keep a young humpback whale alive after it washed ashore north of the Alsea River near Waldport early Wednesday morning.

Posted: Aug 15, 2019 10:23 AM
Updated: Aug 15, 2019 1:36 PM

WALDPORT, Ore. —

UPDATE: A young humpback whale stranded near Waldport has been euthanized, according to Oregon State Parks.

"Stranding specialists on the team consulted with colleagues nationwide and determined euthanizing it was the only humane option," the agency said. "The team also considered trying to move the animal closer to the water or give high tides another chance, but neither alternative was deemed feasible."

Specialists with a team from the Marine Mammal Stranding Network euthanized the whale with an injection around midday on Thursday.

Volunteers and experts had tried several times to get the whale back into the ocean during successive high tides since Wednesday morning, but the whale was continually washed back into shore — coming to rest even further up the beach. In the meantime, they tried to keep the whale comfortable and relieve its stress.

(Updated 8/15/19 at 1:30 p.m.)


INITIAL REPORT: A coalition of rescuers are trying to keep a young humpback whale alive after it washed ashore north of the Alsea River near Waldport early Wednesday morning.

"A team organized by the Oregon State University-based Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network (OMMSN) responded to the report early Wednesday morning and coordinated an all-day effort to relieve the animal’s stress while waiting high tide," the Oregon Parks Department said. "After two high tides — one mid-day Wednesday and one shortly after midnight Thursday — the whale remains stranded."

Now the rescuers are trying to buy the 20-foot cetacean time while they mull a difficult decision — waiting for more high tides, finding another way to get the whale back into the ocean, or euthanasia.

"The evaluation process will take several hours," Oregon Parks said.

By Thursday morning, the effort included students, volunteers, and staff from multiple aquariums or university marine biology programs, all trying to comfort the stranded whale by digging underneath it while keeping it wet.

"During the Wednesday high tide, the whale managed to swim free briefly before stranding itself again. Members of the team stayed on site most of the night," Oregon Parks said.

“The whale is definitely a fighter. Several times it was facing the ocean and working its way closer, as well as rolling toward the ocean,” said Tricia Howe, Oregon Coast Aquarium Operations Manager. “However, when it stopped to rest, the powerful waves pushed it back up on the sand. Due to the extremely high tide last night, it is now even closer to the dunes.”

The humpback whale has been listed as endangered in the U.S. since 1973. Oregon Coast Aquarium said that they are distinguished from gray whales by their dark color and long pectoral fins, and individuals can be identified by their unique tail fluke patterns.

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